Who are we? Searching for Identity

teen identity
Are you a teen? Or do you remember what it was like when you were a teenager?

The teen years can be difficult years for many of us, full of changes in our social lives, at school, often within our families, and even to our bodies and emotions. Middle school and high school are hard enough for any teenager, but when you add in the layer of adoption, the teenage years can be full of unexpected challenges.

The teen years are all about identity.

This is a developmental stage in which we are discovering who we are. How does the world see me? Who do I want to be? Every teenager begins to ask these questions, and for the adopted, this can be even more complicated!

Figuring out who we are becoming or want to become can be tricky when we don’t know our past. I read somewhere once that it’s hard to start a book on chapter two. That hit home for me. If we skip chapter one, how do we jump to chapter two? Chapter one is important—it lays the foundation of the story. The book always begins with chapter one. We build the story from the beginning. It takes root and the book grows.

Missing information, family secrets, or even lies just complicate the matter. For many adopted teens there are more questions than answers. Confusion, anger, and frustration can develop as they try to figure out their identity with missing information. It can be a very lonely time for some.

Who do you talk to about this?

Who would understand? Who would really care? It’s vital that we all know our story—from the beginning, including all of the good and the difficult pieces. To know chapter one is vital as we search to become whole.

So, as adopted teens begin to ask these questions, what can family members and friends do? How can they help? Listen. Just listen as they process their thoughts and questions out loud. Ask thoughtful questions of your own. There’s no need to offer advice unless asked. Just be there. Accept that this person that you care so much about is trying to put together this complicated puzzle.

Take away:  Consider a peer group.

Many adopted people of all ages find comfort in adoptee groups with people of similar life stages and ages. Being able to talk about adoption with other adopted people can help to normalize and validate feelings. Having support along the way can make the journey easier. Check out the peer groups we offer at BPAR, and consider joining one that fits you best!

Written by Jennifer Eckert
Boston Post Adoption Resources

About Jennifer Eckert, LICSW

Jennifer Eckert, LICSW, is the founder of Boston Post Adoption Resources. To read her bio, please visit BPAR's Team page.